Old Fort Erie plays an important role in the history of Niagara Falls. Its history can be traced back more than 12,500 years. It was the local site of the War of 1812, but before then, it was an important place to the settlers and Indigenous people who lived there, and the soldiers who posted up there. In 1764, Old Fort Erie became the first English settlement in Ontario, laying the groundwork for the vibrant cultures that make up Niagara Falls today.
The history of Old Fort Erie from during the time between 1764 and 1800 is explored in the Niagara Falls Old Fort Erie Speaker Series with monthly events this April, May and June. Each event starts at 7 p.m. and is held at Old Fort Erie at 350 Lakeshore Road, Fort Erie, Ontario.
The doors for each event open at 6:30 p.m., and light refreshments will be served. Tickets for each event cost $8.85, or you can get an Old Fort Erie Season pass for all events for $23.27. Get more details below, and purchase tickets here.
April 24, 7 p.m. | Gavin K Watt: The Loyalist Experience on the Niagara Frontier
Listen as Gavin K Watt, considered Canada’s top authority on the Loyalists in the American War of Independence, dives deep into the Loyalist arrival in Canada. Watt is the founder of the Museum of Applied Military History, which features Canadian militaria from 1758 to 1980. He has also been involved in military reenacting since 1965.
They Loyalists were a group of British supporters fighting against the Revolutionaries during the American Revolution. Known as the United Empire of Loyalists, some settled in Niagara.
Not all Loyalists were British. Some were Americans and Europeans. Old Fort Erie became a hub for British and Loyalist activities and was the place successful campaigns were launched by Loyalist Rangers, Loyalist Provincial Regiments, Indigenous allies and European troops against the Revolutionaries and rebels and their Spanish and French Royal allies.
May 15, 7 p.m. | Dr. Carl Benn: John Norton & the Indigenous World of the Great Lakes, 1780s-1820s
Listen to the fascinating story of John Norton, who was Cherokee and Scottish and arrived in the Great Lakes region in the 1780s. He came as a British soldier and was assigned to Fort Niagara.
Norton left the army and taught school among the Mohawks Indigenous community, then traded furs in Ohio and battled American soldiers on the Wabash. He later served as an Iroquois diplomatic chief and participated in the greatest amount of War of 1812 battles.
Dr. Carl Benn, who will speak about Norton, has written history books on subjects including The Iroquois in the War of 1812, The War of 1812, and Mohawks on the Nile. He worked in the museum field for 34 years and is still researching Ontario history today.
June 5, 7 p.m. | Dr. John Triggs: Archaeology at Old Fort Erie
Dr. John Triggs has been researching archaeology at Old Fort Erie since 2012. As associate professor and chair of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at Laurier University, Dr. Triggs has led numerous Old Fort Erie expeditions with students that have led to the unearthing of more than 100,000 artefacts.
His studies have led to discoveries about the lives of Indigenous people, soldiers and officers who lived at Old Fort Erie and were involved in the War of 1812. Dr. Triggs will talk about exciting new discoveries at Old Fort Erie in 2015 and 2017, including finding musket balls, flints and other military paraphernalia.
What Else Can You Do at Old Fort Erie?
Old Fort Erie is a Canadian landmark worth stopping by throughout each year. Visitors enter through a Welcome Centre, where there are interactive exhibits giving in-depth background and history that set the stage for touring the space. There’s also a full-service snack bar and theatre in the Welcome Centre.
There are daily tours of the fort led by costumed staff who share interesting facts and stories, and who show visitors what is was like to live in this period of history. Visitors to Old Fort Erie can walk on the grounds of the bloodiest battlefield in Canada or wander through historical buildings.
Activities at Old Fort Erie also include musket demonstrations and an annual Siege of Old Fort Erie Reenactment. The 2019 season re-opens May 11.
When you and your family visit the town of Fort Erie, you can also check out beaches and playgrounds in addition to the historical landmarks. Fort Erie also hosts thoroughbred horse racing, has the Fort Erie Railway Museum, has Safari Niagara featuring exotic animals, and has the Fort Erie Ridgeway Battlefield Museum.
Need a Place to Stay on Your Niagara Falls Visit?
Fort Erie is steeped in history and is a great place to spend a day when you visit Niagara Falls. If the Old Fort Erie Speaker Series or anything else in Fort Erie interests you, be sure to book a room at the Marriott on the Falls for your Niagara Falls visit. We can help you with transportation, planning the rest of your trip and more.